Experts: Drug stores can be cheaper than supermarkets

- The giggling throng was likely armed -- with scissors.

Coupon clippers from around the country converged here for a weekend convention. The unusual gathering of penny pinchers is said to be the nation’s largest. 

Organizer Margarita McCartney estimated there were about 1,000 people (mostly women) registered. Conventioneers traded war stories, shared frugal strategies, and basked in the glory of being with coupon kin.

As we observed the deal making, our biggest takeaway was this: drug stores are in.

"It's not all about food [stores] anymore," McCartney said.

Several packed seminars focused on how to get groceries -- yes groceries -- at the corner drug store for less than the supermarket.

Blogger Christie Hardcastle, who runs WildForCVS.com and WildForWags.com, taught her students that blindly relying on grocery store deals is probably costing them money.

"Between coupon and the loyalty programs that the drug stores offer, nine times out of 10, you're going to get a much better deal huge savings at a drug store than you will at a grocery store," she said.

Hardcastle pointed to dairy, eggs, and cereal for starters.

When we checked the weekly ads, we found she was right. Boxes of Raisin Bran were buy-one-get-one-free at the supermarket for $5.00 - therefore $2.50 each.  But, on that particular week, the drug stores were selling them for $2.00 each.

Is it worth a special trip to save $.50? Hardcastle says yes -- because a savvy shopper will buy multiple items on that extra drive and save far more than $.50.

Hardcastle says the deals aren’t fleeting, either. She says drug stores one-up supermarkets nearly every week on select items.

We’ve warned you that some drug store deals are centered around the outlet’s loyalty program. Enrollment is free, but some discounts pay it forward instead of receiving an instant price reduction. If you’re strategic , and loyal, it can really pay off. If you’re not conscientious, you might be losing out.

Hardcastle says don’t be put off. Try it. She insists that cost conscious shoppers who aren’t comparing grocery store prices to drug store prices are leaving money on the table.

"They are missing out," she said.

As the seminar wrapped up, inspired shoppers flooded the hotel hallways. Shoppers like Mimi Rodriguez came away bargain hunting believers.

"You can save more at the CVS and the Walgreens," she said, determined to change her buying habits.

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